Dutch filmmaker Helmie Stil‘s latest filmpoem, just released online yesterday, is a brilliant follow-up to her award-winning The Opened Field. Like that film, it’s based on a poem from the UK Poetry Society’s 2017 National Poetry Competition, this time the commended poem “Muirburn” by Yvonne Reddick, a scholar of ecopoetry and up-and-coming poet from the northwest of England. And like Dom Bury’s “The Opened Field”, “Muirburn” is an unsettling poem that gives Stil plenty of room to subvert viewers’ expectations, steering just close enough to standard, narrative film-making to draw us in and reveal the—I would argue—true, uncanny reality of nature and our relationship with it. One of the National Poetry Competition judges, Pacale Petit, noted that the poem itself contains “filmic flashes, which dissolve and sear as if glimpsed through a furnace”, and added that it “concludes on an astonishing parting image”—a real gift to the filmmaker, who certainly rose to the challenge.
The film premiered in March, according to the Poetry Society’s announcement post:
Yvonne Reddick also won the inaugural Peggy Poole Award, and the film ‘Muirburn’ was premiered at the Peggy Poole Award readings at Bluecoat, Liverpool on 13 March 2019.
The darkly allegoric winning poem surrounds six boys in a field enacting a disturbing coming-of-age ritual, and is told with a driving rhythm and mantra-like repetitions. The poem interrogates themes of unchecked masculinity, exploring our destructive relationship with each other and with the natural world. The barbaric impulses enacted are interwoven to offer us a sombre and precisely wrought ecological and social fable for our times.
This film interpretation by Helmie Stil takes, perhaps unavoidably, a somewhat illustrative tack while remaining suggestive and allusive in all the right ways, so that the poem doesn’t feel pinned down, as it easily could have felt with a more conventional approach.
Savouring their last moments, a couple struggle with letting go. They must, but breaking up is hard to do.
This short film is based on an original poem written by Patrick Errington. The poem was commended in the National Poetry Competition 2016, Poetry Society (UK). This film was commissioned by FilmPoem and original adaptation was produced entirely in Fujairah UAE.
The actors are Layla Al Khouri and Sanoop Din. For a full list of credits, see Poetry Film Live.
In this powerful film, Jordanian poet Hisham Bustani reads in Arabic his poems, ‘The Maestro’ and ‘Night’. The English translations of the poems by Thoraya El-Rayyes are shown as subtitles. The poems first appeared in the winter 2017 issue of The Poetry Review magazine from The Poetry Society, and the film was premiered at the launch of the winter issue in January 2018. Filmed and edited by Arwa’ Debaja, the project is a collaboration with The Poetry Society and Seven Mountains Media. © Hisham Bustani, Thoraya El-Rayyes, Arwa’ Debaja, Seven Mountains Media and The Poetry Society, 2017.
(I hate to preempt the Poetry Society’s possible sharing of the video on their own website, but it’s not clear whether or how often they still update their poetry film page. Last year’s National Poetry Competition filmpoems are still nowhere to be found.)
The Desktop Metaphor is a film by Helmie Stil of Caleb Parkin’s second placed poem in the National Poetry Competition 2016, commissioned by Alastair Cook of Filmpoem in partnership with the Poetry Society.
Dutch filmmaker Helmie Stil is also the organizer of Filmpoem Festival 2017 at the Depot in Lewes on October 28, which will include a screening of all ten of the films made for the 2016 winners of the UK Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition.
Caleb Parkin is a “poet, performer, artist, facilitator and educator, based in Bristol.” His poem on the page takes an interesting diptych-like form as the words echo back and forth from one line to the next.
There aren’t too many rules about what makes a successful poetry film, but one I tend to follow a lot when deciding what to post here is that a too-close match of imagery to text usually feels redundant and reductive, diminishing a poem rather than adding an extra dimension. But in this new film from the UK Poetry Society, somehow a teenage poet, Shakira Morar, and director Suzanne Cohen manage to break that rule, and I think it’s because the limpid quality of the text allows the illustrative imagery to attain a symbolic, even mythic weight. Watch it and judge for yourself. Here’s the description on the Poetry Society’s website:
On World Poetry Day 2017, we are delighted to present a new poetry film, produced by The Poetry Society to celebrate the overall winner of the Poetry for Peace 2016 project, chosen by Judith Palmer. The film features the winning poem by Shakira Morar, aged 17, from Headington School, Oxford, who reads the poem in the film, in English, while the Arabic translation by Manal Nakli appears as subtitles. The poem is inspired by a 4,000 year-old Mesopotamian jug in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the film is directed by Suzanne Cohen.
‘Poetry for Peace, 2016’ is part of the award winning, Arts Council-funded ‘Writing Mesopotamia’ collaboration between Oxford poet Jenny Lewis and the distinguished Iraqi poet Adnan al-Sayegh aimed at building bridges between English and Arabic-speaking communities. It involved Adnan and Jenny working with the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The Poetry Society and more than sixty 11-17 year olds from four Oxford schools – Oxford Spires Academy, the Sudanese Saturday School, Headington School and Cherwell School – on themes of heritage and peace to produce poems for a competition judged by the poets.
This is part of a series called Beginning to See the Light by Corinne Silva. The text is by Jane Draycott, “a UK-based poet with a particular interest in sound art and collaborative work.” As the Poetry Society (U.K.) webpage explains,
The Poetry Society and Jaybird Live Literature commissioned six poets to create new pieces to celebrate National Poetry Day 2015, the theme of which was ‘light’. The poems followed the path of light over one October day. Artist and filmmaker Corinne Silva then made filmpoems of six of the poems, which you can watch on Vimeo or YouTube.
I see these as more in the video art tradition than previous poetry films sponsored by the Society; some of the imagery reoccurs from film to film, and watching them in order does give an interesting impression of the passing of time. But the juxtaposition of footage and text most often feels arbitrary, so for me they don’t really work as videopoems or filmpoems. Still, kudos for the Poetry Society for continuing to push the envelope and sponsor interesting multimedia poetry projects.